If it is intended to use part of the room, or its furniture, as a background, care must be exercised in the disposal of such features as will appear in the picture. In itself, the room may be a model of good taste in its furnishing and arrangement, and still be unsuitable, without some rearrangement, as a background for portraits or genre subjects. It is well to err on the side of simplicity in such accessories as are introduced, and their position and colour or tone are of vital importance to the composition. It may be a picture on the wall, or a bowl filled with flowers, or an architectural feature of the room - whatever it is it should help and be subservient to the prime motive of the composition. It is of great assistance, in judging the correctness of an arrangement, to use a small mirror, held at right angles to the ground-glass screen, in which the picture will be reflected right way up. One cannot always form a correct judgment of the composition when it is only seen upside down. If the camera faces the source of light (window, doorway, etc.), backed plates should be used. Some workers never use anything else, but it seems unnecessarily luxurious to use them, except where they are wanted, and I have not discovered that they give better results than an unbacked plate with ordinary subjects.*
Working at comparatively close quarters to your subject, it is necessary to use a stand that can be easily raised or lowered. With a regulation studio camera this is, of course, a very simple matter, but when a tripod is used the best form is that in which the lowest division of each leg telescopes into an upper one. It is then possible to lower the camera without unduly spreading the legs of the tripod, a proceeding fraught with danger when working on a hard or polished floor.
As I have already said, it does not come within my province to speak of method of posing or arrangement. Such matters depend entirely on the character of the sitter, or the idea to be conveyed in the picture, and must be left to the individual taste of the artist. One word of advice may not be out of place, namely, arrange as many preliminaries as possible before asking your model to sit.
♦ Mr. Holding's remarks seem to show that he has rarely used backed plates,- Ed
Having a more or less definite idea, before commencing operations, of the arrangement you are going to photograph, there is no reason why the background and accessories should not be placed approximately in their right positions before the model is introduced. At the last moment such slight re-arrangements as are necessary can be made without unduly wearying your sitter.
It is a wise plan to keep your dark backs loaded with rapid plates, and your camera near at hand, so that you are prepared at a moment's notice to make a photographic note of any accidental pose, or lighting, that attracts you by its beauty, and which it might not be easy to have repeated. In this way one may secure many unstudied and natural effects that are far more charming because of their spontaneity than compositions that have been more laboriously arranged. Particularly is this the case with children, who do not take kindly to being carefully posed and arranged, but who, if caught in natural moments, will give you subjects far better than can be deliberately planned.
And now, having touched but the outer fringe of a great and fascinating branch of photographic and artistic work, I must leave it with this assurance that whosoever has eyes to see that which is beautiful cannot fail to make beautiful photographs ; and that, if he but face the difficulties that exist in this, as in every other branch of work, he will open up for himself a new world of delightful study.
E. T. HOLDING.
Two photographs taken with the N.S. Patent Keflex without moving the position of the camera. The upper one is with the 6-in. lens, as normally fitted to the 1/4-plate, and the lower with the Tele-lens, which is held inside the camera when not in use.